Big Think Competition

⚠️ Submissions are now closed! We received a record-breaking number of entries and our tutors are hard at working judging them. Stay tuned for updates on the winners!

Enter our Big Think Competition!

Every year, we invite students across the UK to tackle one of our academics’ ‘big’ questions. These have been specially designed to challenge you beyond your normal school curriculum and get you thinking ‘big’ about your subject and what it might be like to study it at university. Simply record a video of 5 minutes or less presenting your arguments, research, evidence and opinions.


  • £100 1st Prize
  • £50 2nd Prize
  • £35 Subject Commendations

To enter you must:

  • live in the UK
  • attend a state school
  • be in Year 11, Year 12 or Year 13

Winners will also all be invited to Oxford for the day where they will get to discuss their entries with subject tutors, have a tour of the college with current students and enjoy lunch in our dining hall.

How to enter:

  • Send us a video of no more than 5 minutes in length.
  • You don’t need any fancy equipment, you can film it on your phone if you like – we will be judging based on your engagement with the questions.
  • Your video doesn’t have to include your face if you don’t want – feel free to get creative! You could narrate a PowerPoint, record yourself drawing or even apply your TikTok-making skills…
  • Submit your video as an unlisted YouTube video or via WeTransfer.
A computer-generated image of a DNA double-helix


Do our genes define who we are?

Question set by Prof. Lars Jansen, tutor in Biochemistry at St Edmund Hall. His lab focuses on understanding chromatin structure and function in human cell systems.

Five vials of liquid containing quantum dots which flouresce cyan, light green, green yellow and red under UV light


Last year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots. Why?

Question set by Annina Lieberherr, a DPhil candidate at Lincoln College Oxford. Her research is centred around the theoretical description of spectroscopy, and she teaches Mathematics for Chemists at St Catherine’s College.

A photo of an ammonite fossil

Earth Sciences

When did complex life on land evolve?

Question set by Prof. Claire Nichols, tutor in Earth Sciences at St Edmund Hall. Claire has been teaching Earth Sciences at the College since 2021. After initially aspiring to be a theoretical physicist, she quickly discovered the practical side of Earth Sciences was a much better fit and particularly enjoyed field trips and the opportunities to travel to remote places.

An AI-generated image of a driverless car


Should we let robots do all the driving?

Question set by Prof. Paul Goulart, tutor in Engineering at St Edmund Hall. After initially studying Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, Paul went on to specialise in Control Engineering.

A painting of William Shakespeare


Is Shakespeare better than Taylor Swift?
(Feel free to use another artist if you prefer!)

Question set by Dr Tom MacFaul, tutor in English at St Edmund Hall. Tom splits his time between teaching and pursuing his own research. This question draws on his own interests in how writers respond to ideological and political changes in their work.

a world map showing the north-south divide of development


Can development ever be sustainable?

Question set by Dr Lorraine Wild, tutor in Geography at St Edmund Hall. Lorraine teaches all aspects of human geography at St Edmund Hall, and is also a Lecturer at Worcester and St Hilda’s College. Lorraine is also the Academic Administrator at the School of Geography and the Environment, leading outreach work for the undergraduate course and having oversight of the delivery of all of the Geography programmes within the department.

Books in the Old Library


Historians disagree all the time, so how can we trust what they write?

Question set by Prof. Filippo de Vivo, tutor in History at St Edmund Hall. Having studied in Milan, Cambridge and Paris, his research focuses on the history of communication and politics in Italy and the Mediterranean.

Aerial photo of an industrial site


What is the role of law/lawyers in addressing climate change?

Question set by Prof. Joanna Bell, tutor in Law at St Edmund Hall. She teaches Administrative Law, Constitutional Law and Tort for the college, as well as Environmental Law for the Faculty.

Photo of a large wind turbine next to an array of solar cells, with power infrastructure such as pylons in the distance

Materials Science

How and why can new materials contribute to the clean energy revolution?

Question set by Dr Joe Prentice, tutor in Materials Science at St Edmund Hall. Joe’s research is in the realm of materials modelling – using theoretical tools to model and predict the properties of materials.


Is maths created or discovered?

Question set by Dr Tom Crawford, tutor in Maths at St Edmund Hall but you might have heard of him as Tom Rocks Maths on YouTube. He uses his specialism in Applied Mathematics to produce content on his channel, as well as working with the BBC and Numberphile.

Medical Sciences

How is artificial intelligence shaping the future of medicine and biomedical sciences?

Question set by Prof. David Dupret, tutor in Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at St Edmund Hall. David teaches Neurosciences to our students. His research group is looking at how the different regions of the brain help us use memories to guide our behaviour.

A photo of a Spanish dictionary with the focus on the word error

Modern Languages

Is there such a thing as an untranslatable word?

Question set by Dr Holly Langstaff, tutor in Modern Languages at St Edmund Hall. She researches and teaches French literature from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. She also runs several outreach initiatives, such as the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, the Think Like a Linguist project and Bristol Translates Summer School.

An artist's concept of how other habitable rocky planets in the universe might appear


Is Pluto a planet?

Question set by Prof. Carly Howett, tutor in Physics at St Edmund Hall. She is also a planetary physicist who specialises in space studies. Carly helps to develop new instruments allowing us to explore the solar system and has been a part of several projects at NASA.


Is online anonymity a threat to democracy?

Question set by Dr Orlando Lazar, tutor in Politics at St Edmund Hall. He specialises in the theory of politics, and he enjoys teaching students about this in their topics on Marxism and Feminism. His own research has looked at applying these theories to issues such as domination and power in the workplace.

Black background, blue head with sky pattern


Why don’t people do what they know they should?

Question set by Dr Iana Alexeeva, tutor in Experimental Psychology at St Edmund Hall. Iana teaches on a variety of topics from psychological disorders to information processing. In particular, she is interested in how cognitive and emotional processes play a role in coping with illness and treatment.

Picked your question? Get thinking and submit your entry by Wednesday 1 May!

Submit your entry here